To Coil

Hello! I hope you are all well. With all the time I have on my hands I’ve made another piece of work. As I was sewing, I was thinking about how the work came about and also about the manner of creation in general.

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When I begin a new piece work, I usually only have a vague idea of what it will be. Normally I have in mind a work that I have previously made, or an observation of something that has happened, or maybe an idea that I have read about. There is always some sort of starting point, but there is very rarely a definitive end point. So, when and how does the thinking and deciding what the work will be, take place?

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Very, very occasionally I think a piece into existence. I have an idea; I spend time drawing it up in my sketchbook; I make the piece and the final form is as it appeared in my sketchbook. The work is the materialisation of a thought.

But this rarely happens. Even if I think I have an end point, as soon as I start making, a dialogue starts up between my hands and my materials; they start telling me things and I begin to respond. Ideas change and so does the work as my engagement with the properties of the materials and observation of what is happening generates new knowledge.  This is a knowledge that can only be understood by actually engaging and asking questions. What did I notice? Why did that happen? How can I use that?

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By using your hands, listening to the movement and transformation of your materials, and then reacting to them, you can literally feel your way forward using your imagination and improvising as you go.  This is the method of making that I prefer to employ and the anthropologist, Tim Ingold, calls this creativity in action ‘participant observation’.

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This piece of work originated from two thoughts. First the idea of enclosure that came from the two works I showed you last time and secondly from a work I made sometime ago that was coiled. My starting point was a 5 m x 15 cm strip of fabric – all I knew was that I would coil it up and place it in a container with walls of about the same height. Other than that each move in the making process was dictated by my observations of what had gone before. The turquoise paint was too bright, so as I painted along the strip I dulled and darkened it. The eyelets were too close, so I moved them apart. The seam was too bulky, so I changed the manner of sewing it. The piece looked flat and unexciting, so instead of waxing it I salted it to give texture. One exchange after another pushed the piece forward to how it is now.

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And as I write this, I have found another reason for actually doing rather than just thinking. The title of this post comes from Richard Serra’s verb list. He stated that: ‘drawing is a verb’ and compiled a list of verbs in response to this statement and used it as a guide for his art practice. The list consists of the infinitives of a series of verbs whose actions relate to ‘oneself, material, place and process’. I realise I should write my own verb list of actions related to what I do – I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before!

4 thoughts on “To Coil

  1. Jill Mundy

    So fascinating to read the thoughts and processes behind this piece of work – thank you for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  2. miriam louisa simons

    I loved this post, thank you Debbie.

    I’m a WordPress blogger myself and a total enthusiast. Which is why I wonder whether you’re aware that your email notification for this post included a deeply partisan political advertisement in reference to the US Presidential election. I intend to complain about this type of advertising on the WP forums, but felt to let you know.

    It’s possible to keep one’s posts ad-free by paying a small fee to WP. I’ve elected to do this on my blogs. I guess they need to raise revenue somehow when offering the blog platform for free.

    Feel free to edit or delete this comment.
    Kind regards from Australia,
    Miriam

    Reply
  3. bluebrightly

    Feeling your way along makes more sense (to me) than following a plan, by far. Responding to things creates new challenges. I enjoyed this post (and all your posts) and wondered if you know about Yvonne Rainer, who was friends with Serra. She famously said, “The mind is a muscle.” 🙂

    Reply

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